August 29, 2004

Homegrown Democrat

Friday I attended an event held for the Washington State Democratic party, at which Sen. Kerry was possibly going to be making an appearance. He didn't make it, but we were treated to quite the monologue by Garrison Keillor. Keillor discussed some of the topics in his new book, Homegrown Democrat, and it was quite a show.

Bloggers talk a lot about defining our message, telling the story about why people should vote for Democrats, or why they should want to be identified with the party. Well, Keillor has that down cold. I started reading it while I was waiting to get it autographed, and I didn't put it down until I finished it very early Saturday morning. A couple excerpts from the book, which probably won't be the last I share on these pages:

(p. 18) It's the natural cycle of life, I suppose, that conservatives become anarchists and liberals conservatives. Once we Democrats were young and rebellious and lobbed eggs at the bewigged and berobed Establishment and now we're the parents with the thankless job of home maintenance, defending principles that go back to the founding of the Republic, namely, the notion of the common good, the principle of equality, the very idea of representative government.

(p. 25) The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. Not even close. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from town and clear-cut the forest and gut the IRS and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them. Their crusade against government has given patriotism a bad name. And their victory has been accompanied by such hubris as would choke a goat. One Republican columnist wrote that Democrats should give up opposing tax breaks for the rich because working people don't vote their self-interest, they vote their aspirations and are happy to give big gifts to rich people because they hope to become rich too. A little TV Republican named Tucker Carlson wrote a column saying that if Democrats want to win, they need to (1) talk tough, (2) start their own think tanks, and (3) get a sense of humor. - (3) Got one, Tucker, (2) got plenty of think tanks, except we call them colleges, and (1) shut your piehole, peabrain, or I'll set fire to your loafers.

(p. 76) My teachers Miss Story, Miss Melby, Mrs. Fleischman, Miss Hattendorf: those tireless encouragers and inspirers. They were children of the Depression who were impelled toward public service, a good career, and many of the women had grown up in large farm families and for them teaching was a shining ideal and also the path out of a hard life they knew too well, the life of serfs. The very word education was dazzling to them, and they marched off to earn their way through teachers' college and put on starched collars and pick up pointers and point. how beautiful is the life of the mind to those who know about doing laundry by hand and pressing the clothes with a hot iron from a woodstove and hauling buckets of water for the baths. Miss Hattendorf grew up on a farm in Iowa; her German parents sent her and her sisters to board with a family in town so they could attend high school. When Miss Hattendorf was about to leave for the University of Chicago and it came time to say goodbye and get in the car and go to the train, she looked at her mother standing at the kitchen sink - "I wanted to hug her, but I couldn't do it. She was a stranger to me. They wanted me and my sisters to get a good education and they made big sacrifices and that was one of them: they didn't know us anymore and we didn't know them."

There are many stories of sacrifice and idealism like hers - and one of the dark deeds of the Republican anarchists is their denigration of public service and their characterization of public servants as parasites, busybodies, incompetents. To the cheater, there is no such thing as honesty, and to Republicans the idea of serving the public good is counterfeit on the face of it - they never felt such an urge, therefore it must not exist. But John F. Kennedy knew it and gave voice to it.

(p. 194) You drive out of St. Paul into the Republican suburbs and you see what the New Deal and Fair Deal and Great Society accomplished: they enabled people of modest means to get a leg up in the world and eventually become right-wing reactionaries and pretend that they sprang fully formed from their own ambitions with no help from anybody. And vote to deny to others what they themselves were freely given. Bless their hearts. But they're not Democrats.

Good stuff. Get the book for more where that came from.

Posted by natasha at August 29, 2004 01:39 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |

It is interesting that Donkey's in the Desert is missing the wonderful set ups the CIA is doing to the Pentagon and the military(after the Republican senators) to keep from being dissolved-there are no unions in the military, which makes for easy target practice. It really is the Union at CIA calling the shots, possibly at DOJ too. Its too bad its during the RNC convention and so near 9/11, but no one wants lay offs or bothering to re-apply at the New Intelligence. I really don't want to mention that there are no unions at Dynacorp or the NGOs there, but maybe that is a just a coincidence.

Posted by: Darey at August 30, 2004 11:38 AM

Just finished the book last night, and loved it! I'm also glad to have found this blog and will be checking in now and then. -B

Posted by: betwana at September 9, 2004 01:02 PM

Loved this book! Who'd a thot Keillor had this much piss and vinegar in him? Along with all the humor....Way to go!!!

Posted by: pepek at September 10, 2004 11:22 AM